The 38th annual Great Dock Canoe Race was held in Naples, Florida on Saturday, May 10th. The Great Dock Race is the oldest continually running canoe race in Florida. At only 2.7 miles, the race is an all-out sprint for about twenty minutes around Crayton Cove. Paddlers must negotiate three turns around large buoys during the race. My first trip to the Dock Race was in 1987. I raced with the legendary Gene Jensen and came in second. In 1989 I won the overall title for the first time.
You might wonder why someone who likes to paddle in ultra-distance races like the Everglades Challenge and the Missouri River 340 would be interested in such a short race. For me, the Great Dock Canoe Race is a perfect example of what the sport of canoe racing can achieve. The event routinely attracts over 1,000 spectators and 100 participants. Every year the race organizers designate a local charity to benefit. They also pick a theme and award a cash prize to the best decorated canoe.
I have raced in the Dock Race over twenty times with many different partners. Since 2000, I have not missed a race. The overall winner is based on a handicap system. Men’s teams run on straight time, mixed teams are given a two-minute handicap and women’s teams are given a four-minute handicap. In 2008 when I crossed the finish line first in the men’s division and wound up losing the overall title to a mixed team, I decided I needed to find a strong female paddler. Anita Allen and I joined forces for the 2011 Great Dock Race and won the overall title with the help of the two-minute handicap. We followed that up with wins in the 2012 and 2013 races. The 2013 race was especially rewarding, since we beat the men’s team of Pete Jenks and Frazier Gardella (15 overall titles between them) by two seconds.
Winning streaks do not last forever. In the 2014 race, Pete Jenks teamed up with John Edwards. Although Edwards is in his mid-sixties, he is still one of the strongest canoers in Florida. Anita and I ran a good race. We were within a minute of Jenks-Edwards at the halfway point of the race. Paddling the second half into a headwind was costly, and Jenks-Edwards pulled away for a convincing victory. It was still an enjoyable trip and hopefully Anita and I will be back next year to start another winning streak.
Check out all the results at the Great Dock Canoe Race site: 2014 Results…
Now my attention turns to the Texas Water Safari on June 14th. Details to follow . . .